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‘Bias’ towards affluent areas queried by community worker

By Scott Jamison

A South Belfast community worker has accused authorities of being “biased towards more affluent areas” after another local community was awarded an alleygating scheme ahead of his.

Niall Houston of the Markets Development Association (MDA) was speaking in response to an article in last week’s South Belfast News, in which John Copeland of the Lisburn Road Residents’ Association revealed residents there had been promised alleygates by the Roads Service, who are the lead agency for the project.

It is expected the new gates will run along alleys at the rear of homes in the lower Lisburn Road area, including Great Northern Street, Northbrook Street and Fane Street.

However, Niall said the news had been met with dismay in the Markets, where residents had long been calling for the gates in a bid to cut down on anti-social behaviour.

“We realise the Markets is being worked on in a phased scheme but for the past four years we have spoken to the Roads Service and Belfast City Council to try and get alleygates installed here.

“We have always been turned down while the likes of the Lisburn Road and Stranmillis always seem to be ahead of us. It seems to many people here as if there’s a bias towards helping more affluent areas at the expense of areas such as the Markets.

“We’ve had several politicians backing us and we suffer our fair share of problems in terms of anti-social behaviour but still there seems to be no chance of us getting these gates.”

He said many authorities would back the MDA’s desire for an alleygating scheme.

“I dare say the likes of the PSNI would support us because the alleyways here can foster ant-social behaviour. They turn many streets into rat runs and allow people to get away very easily if they want.

“I want to know why the Lisburn Road is likely to get gates ahead of the Markets when we need them badly and how these schemes are scored.”

A Roads Service spokesperson said the organisation worked in conjunction with Belfast City Council in relation to alleygating requests and that the council decided who received them.

A spokesperson for the council said Stewart Street, Stanfield Street and Friendly Street in the Markets were included on a list of streets across the city that would be brought before a council committee next month and scored to see which would receive alleygates.

“When scoring streets we look at things like PSNI statistics on anti-social behaviour, reports from our community safety wardens and feedback from the community. Members agreed this system as they felt they wanted the money to be divided equally across the four parts of the city so one area didn’t feel they were being excluded.”

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